Five hundred dollars to apply to college? That’s what my high school senior almost spent. No, she didn’t fall for some Internet scam. Instead, at one point she had a list of 10 prospective colleges. With each school charging $50 or so to apply, we were likely going to spend as much on college applications as we were on books her first semester on campus.
Then we discovered that even though many colleges and universities list an application fee on the admissions web page, there are ways that your son or daughter can avoid an application fee. Yes, that’s right, it is possible to apply to college for free.
With Early Action and Early Decision deadlines right around the corner — some as early as Oct. 15 — now is a great time for parents to figure out how to save some dough when their children apply to college this fall.
Here are five ways we discovered that your son or daughter can apply to college for free.
It’s hard to believe that in this day and age of the Common Application that students still apply to college using a paper application and snail mail. With that option there is nearly always an application fee. However, many colleges encourage their students to go paperless and may waive the fee if you apply using the online application.
While not every college on my daughter’s list offers this fee-free option, I know that Bryn Mawr College does — something we learned during an admissions seminar at the school in Bryn Mawr, Pa. Two other Pennsylvania schools allow you to skip a fee by using their online application — Misericordia University in Dallas and York College of Pennsylvania.
Check out no-fee schools
Nearly every state in the country has at least one college or university that doesn’t charge an admission fee at all. They include Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio; Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C.; and Milwaukee School of Engineering in Milwaukee, Wis. Some of the top ones are Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts; Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts; and Tulane University in New Orleans. There might not be one that’s a perfect match for your student, but it doesn’t hurt to find out who offers what.
Use alumni connections
Western New England University in Springfield, Mass., waives the $40 application fee if an alum signs the application, regardless of the prospective student’s relationship to the alum. It doesn’t hurt to call your own college or university alumni association to find out if there is any fee waiver that your children could qualify for if they decide to apply to your alma mater.
Visit the campus
Many colleges will reward your son or daughter with a “get out of our application fee” card when you go on a tour, meet with an admissions officer or simply check in at the admissions office during a visit.
During Virginia Private College Week each July, high school students who visit at least three of the 25 participating Virginia colleges — including the University of Richmond, Roanoke College and Washington & Lee University — receive up to three application waivers. (There are also virtual visits available!) The waivers are usable at any of the participating schools, and the visitor’s name is entered in a drawing for five $100 Amazon gift cards. I wish we’d known this when we took our daughter to see the University of Richmond.
Demonstrate financial need
If your family has a demonstrated financial need — such as qualification for free- or reduced-price lunch, or other financial support services during the high school years — your child’s guidance counselor can likely help you find ways to get application fees waived. Many schools waive the fees for students who qualified to have their SAT fee waived.
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